Top-seed Novak Djokovic will have a battle on his hands when he opens his campaign at the Rio Olympics 2016. At the draw ceremony in Rio, at the Olympic Tennis Centre, he drew the mercurial Argentinian, Juan Martin del Potro, in the first round.
It was exactly four years ago that del Potro had defeated Djokovic for the bronze medal at the London Olympics in 2012. This will certainly weigh in on Djokovic’s mind and given the Argentinian’s incredible comeback performance against the Serbian at Wimbledon, barely a month ago, the spectators couldn’t have asked for a more explosive start to the Olympics tennis event. If Djokovic gets through this major hurdle, I don’t see him struggling in any round till the quarters, where he is expected to take on the fifth seed, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Second seeded Andy Murray will take on Djokovic’s team-mate, Viktor Troicki, in his campaign to defend his gold medal from the London Games. Looking at the draw, I can see Murray in the semi-finals without having to worry too much about the opposition enroute.
Rafael Nadal, coming into tournament play for the first time since the French Open, will face a comparative light-weight opponent in Federico Delbonis, from Argentina. Nadal’s first tough battle should be in the round of 16 against the wily Frenchman Gilles Simon.
Simon himself, though, will have a tough first round against the rapidly improving Borna Coric of Croatia. The youngster has taken rapid strides in his journey on the ATP tour and will certainly not be a push-over for the 15th seeded Frenchman, Gilles.
If all seeds keep their appointed places, then there will be another Djokovic/Nadal clash in the semis; though, at this point in time, Djokovic certainly is a clear favourite to win that one. The other semifinal would pit Murray against Nishikori and while Murray would be a favourite to get there, I am not so sure about Nishikori. From an Asian point of view, one can only hope that he lives up to his potential and seeding.
On the women’s side, Serena Williams, the top seed should be well into the third round before she can expect a tough opponent in Andrea Petkovic of Germany. One match ahead, she may be looking at playing Kvitova, a former Wimbledon champion, or even the Italian Roberta Vinci, who had stopped Serena at the US Open last year.
Spanish sensation Muguruza will take on Jelena Jankovic in a tough first round, and if she stays on track will face Venus Williams in the quarters, to play Serena in the semis. Although Muguruza and Venus are the seeds in that quarter, there are a bunch of young talented girls who can create an upset.
The bottom half seems a little easier with Angelique Kerber of Germany expected to take her place in the semi-finals although she does have the talented Eugene Bouchard in her path in the second round. Her potential opponent in the semis would in all probability be Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.
Looking from the Indian point of view, in the men’s doubles, Bopanna/Paes will take on the Polish pair of Kubot/Matkowski of Poland in the first round. Given the kind of competition there is in this event, this really is a fair draw. If they get through their first round, I feel that their second round could be slightly easier against the Czechs, Rasol/Stepanek, who would also be expected to win their first round against the Spanish pair of Agut/Ferrer.
If Bopanna/Paes can get their act together, I feel both these matches are winnable. The quarter-finals will see them up against the top-seeds, Mahut/Herbert. Once you are at the business end of the tournament then everything is possible and it all depends on the form on the day and the self-belief on that day. One can only wish them all the very best.
On the women’s side, Sania/Prarthana take on the Chinese pair of Peng/Zhang. Obviously a tough match. It’s going to take all of Sania’s skills, with huge support from Prarthana, to take on the seeded Chinese pair.
The author is a former Davis Cup player and coach of the Indian Davis Cup Team.